After winning his second American League Manager of the Year award in a four-year span, Joe Maddon talked -- repeatedly and glowingly -- about how he wants to stick around to win more with the Rays. Maddon raved about the organization and the staff around him, the quality of information he has to work with, the relationships with his bosses, and the free-thinking environment in which he gets to work and the culture in the clubhouse.
"I can't imagine a better situation," he said. "I think any manager would love to be the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. I really mean that. It's a very pure form of baseball."
Maddon says openly and often that he has no interest in leaving the Rays and wants to build them into a dynasty, "to make the Rays into the next century's Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox, whatever."
But -- and there had to be a but -- he has only one year remaining on his contract. And while both Maddon and the Rays have said they expect the relationship to remain ongoing, the reality is that preliminary talks, according to the St. Petersburg Times, have not gone well. One of the issues is likely salary, as the Times reported Maddon's approximate salary of $1.3 million would put him in the bottom half of current managers.
Given the number of high-profile teams that expressed some form of interest in Maddon this offseason -- the Cardinals, Cubs and Red Sox -- it is only logical to assume that he would be in high demand if he were allowed to get to the open market.
That puts the onus on the Rays to get something done before the end of the 2012 season, and potentially earlier to eliminate the potential for distraction throughout the season. That's if they're going to be able to get something done.
--RHP Jeremy Hellickson shed some of his standard stoicism after winning the AL Rookie of the Year award by a comfortable margin. "I was very, very excited," Hellickson said. "It's something that I really wanted to win, and there were three, four other guys that I felt were just as deserving. So it's definitely very exciting." Hellickson is the first starting pitcher to win AL rookie honors since Detroit's Justin Verlander in 2006.
--Manager Joe Maddon became the seventh manager to win multiple AL manager of the year awards. Maddon joined former Rays manager Lou Piniella, plus Tony La Russa, Sparky Anderson, Buck Showalter, Joe Torre and Mike Scioscia.
--RHP James Shields boosted his 2012 salary by $500,000 to $8 million by finishing in the top five in the AL Cy Young voting, but he was just as pleased by the significance of ending up third behind the Tigers' Justin Verlander and the Angels' Jered Weaver. "I was excited just to be part of that kind of talented group of guys that were up there with me," Shields said. "It's definitely an honor. Obviously, every pitcher wants to win the Cy Young, but with the kind of year Verlander had, it was a no-doubter."
--Executive VP Andrew Friedman said the Rays like the planned addition of a second wild-card team to each league. "We are in favor of any change that might help improve competitive balance, and this at least does something to further that," Friedman said.
--DH Johnny Damon and 1B Casey Kotchman could end up back with the Rays, as executive vice president Andrew Friedman said both free agents remain topics of conversation as the Rays sort through different options to improve their offense without weakening their defense or flexibility. "They are very prominent in our discussions right now as we're going through things," Friedman said. "I expect that will continue."
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Rays who have won AL Rookie of the Year honors in franchise history -- 3B Evan Longoria in 2008 and RHP Jeremy Hellickson in 2011.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Any other year his stats win it!!" -- LHP David Price, via Twitter, on teammate James Shields finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting.